Avoid confusion over vaccinations by providing accurate information

It is necessary to use the limited supply of novel coronavirus vaccines effectively to ensure inoculations run smoothly. The government should provide municipalities with accurate information about shipments and other issues to help them with the necessary preparations.

Vaccinations for senior citizens are expected to start on April 12. As the supply is limited for the time being, full-scale vaccinations will kick off on April 26 or later, according to the government.

The elderly are more likely to develop serious symptoms if they contract the coronavirus. It is desirable for as many people as possible to be immunized so that society as a whole can prevent outbreaks.

The government will deliver the first batch of vaccines from the week starting April 5. The Tokyo metropolitan government and the Osaka and Kanagawa prefectural governments will receive vaccines for about 2,000 people each, while the remaining 44 prefectures will be provided with enough for about 1,000 people each. These amounts will be increased later on. In the last week of April, each municipality will receive vaccines for about 500 people.

It is regrettable that a very small number of vaccines will be provided to each local government as the central government is giving priority to nationwide distribution.

The vaccines to be provided by the end of April for senior citizens can be administered to only about 1.4 million people if five doses are extracted per vial. This will only cover 4% of the about 36 million elderly people.

Even though countries are facing shortages of vaccines worldwide, the government is urged to make further efforts to ensure sufficient supply as soon as possible. The government should also provide the public with frank explanations about the limited supply it is facing now.

Municipalities have been forced to review their vaccination plans. Many of them have postponed group vaccinations that were initially planned to be carried out by the end of April, and instead will visit facilities for the elderly to administer the shots they have.

As expectations for the vaccine grow, some municipalities are struggling to explain the vaccine to residents. To prevent confusion among local governments, the central government should take appropriate measures based on the actual situation, such as indicating the conditions for who will be given priority for receiving the shot.

Taro Kono, the minister in charge of administrative reform, has said the government expects to be able to secure enough for all elderly people by the end of June.

For municipalities, which have been making preparations such as securing medical workers and vaccination sites, how many vials they can expect to receive and when is essential information. It is important for the central government not to present optimistic outlooks but to provide municipalities with correct shipment plans, so that they can set a realistic schedule for administering shots.

Among medical professionals who have received the first-priority vaccinations so far, there have been some cases of suspected side effects, but all of them have reportedly recovered. The government is urged to provide the public with information in an easy-to-understand manner and call for calm responses.

While two doses are currently supposed to be administered three weeks apart, some officials in the government and ruling camp have suggested — by referring to cases overseas — that the interval should be expanded so that more people can receive shots faster. This suggestion is worth consideration, as long as such an approach can ensure sufficient efficacy.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 12, 2021.